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Marijuana and High Blood Pressure: How Are They Connected?

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Last Updated - 06/24/2024

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Key Takeaways

  • High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition with potentially severe health implications, often termed the ‘silent killer’.
  • Marijuana contains cannabinoids like THC and CBD, which interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, affecting various physiological processes.
  • Recent studies suggest a correlation between marijuana use and increased risks of heart-related issues, even with infrequent use.
  • Marijuana can cause immediate cardiovascular effects, such as a dose-dependent increase in heart rate and blood pressure, followed by potential declines.
  • Long-term marijuana use, especially through smoking, may be associated with serious cardiovascular risks, including an increased likelihood of heart attack and stroke.
  • Clinical research indicates a dose-response relationship between marijuana use and an increased risk of cardiovascular events.
  • Some studies suggest potential blood pressure reduction in older adults using cannabis, but the overall consensus remains cautious.
  • Medical marijuana’s use for high blood pressure management is debated due to conflicting research findings on its cardiovascular effects.
  • Experts urge caution in using marijuana among individuals with or at risk of high blood pressure due to potential serious cardiovascular implications.
  • Personal accounts of marijuana use for high blood pressure management offer varied experiences, underscoring the need for caution and further research.

Are Marijuana and High Blood Pressure Linked?

Marijuana and high blood pressure have a complex relationship that is garnering increasing attention. This comprehensive analysis explores the scientific research and personal accounts related to the positive and negative impacts of marijuana use on cardiovascular health.

Understanding the Active Ingredients in Marijuana and Their Effects on the Body

Marijuana, derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, contains a plethora of chemical compounds known as cannabinoids, with over 100 identified to date. The most researched and dominant of these compounds are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)

THC is primarily responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects, as it binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, influencing 

  • pleasure 
  • memory
  • thinking
  • concentration
  • perception of time

CBD, on the other hand, does not produce a “high” and is often associated with potential therapeutic effects, such as 

  • reducing inflammation
  • reducing pain

The interaction of cannabinoids with the human body occurs mainly through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes, including 

  • appetite
  • pain sensation
  • mood
  • memory

The ECS consists of receptors spread throughout the body, including CB1 receptors in the brain and CB2 receptors in the peripheral nervous system and immune cells. The cannabinoids from marijuana can influence these receptors, thereby affecting bodily functions. For instance, THC’s interaction with CB1 receptors can lead to the well-known “runner’s high” effect, altering 

  • hunger 
  • metabolism 
  • anxiety levels
  • pain perception

Research has also highlighted the presence of other cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinol (CBN), which may have individual effects and contribute to the overall impact of marijuana. As the scientific community delves deeper into the complexities of marijuana’s chemistry, understanding the full spectrum of cannabinoids and their interactions with the ECS remains a critical area of study for both medicinal and recreational use.

Immediate Cardiovascular Effects of Marijuana Use

Marijuana use has been linked to short-term fluctuations in cardiovascular metrics, including 

  • blood pressure 
  • heart rate

A significant body of research, including a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, indicates that even infrequent marijuana use can elevate the risk of 

  • heart attack
  • stroke 

However, orthostatic hypotension, characterized by a sudden drop in blood pressure upon standing, may follow due to decreased vascular resistance. These cardiovascular responses are attributed to the active compounds in marijuana, such as THC, which can activate the sympathetic nervous system. This activation leads to a series of changes.

Physiological changes

  • an initial spike in blood pressure and heart rate
  • a potential decline in blood pressure

Investigating the Potential Positive Impact of Marijuana on High Blood Pressure

While much research has focused on the adverse cardiovascular effects of marijuana, some studies have explored its potential benefits, particularly for individuals with high blood pressure. A study targeting older adults with hypertension, published on PubMed, aimed to assess the effect of cannabis on blood pressure, heart rate, and metabolic parameters. 

The Research Study

This prospective study involved patients aged 60 years or older who were newly prescribed cannabis. The researchers monitored 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure, among other health indicators, to determine the impact of cannabis use.

The Research Findings

The findings suggested that cannabis might be associated with blood pressure reduction in this demographic. However, it is important to note that the broader body of research predominantly indicates risks associated with marijuana use, such as an increased likelihood of heart attack and stroke, especially with frequent use. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) review highlights the immediate effects of marijuana smoking, such as tachycardia and elevated supine blood pressure, which could be detrimental for individuals with cardiovascular concerns.

The Research Results

Given the conflicting evidence, further research is warranted to clarify the conditions under which marijuana might have a positive effect on blood pressure and to identify the long-term implications of its use. Individuals with hypertension must consult with healthcare professionals before considering cannabis as a treatment option, as the risks may outweigh the benefits.

Adverse Cardiovascular Effects of Marijuana on Hypertension

Recent studies have highlighted potential cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use, particularly in relation to 

  • high blood pressure/hypertension

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found a dose-response relationship where the risk of 

  • heart attacks
  • strokes 

increased with the frequency of marijuana use. The research, involving nearly 435,000 American adults, is one of the largest to date exploring the relationship between cannabis and cardiovascular events.

Another study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reported that daily cannabis smoking was associated with a

  • 25% increased likelihood of heart attack and 
  • 42% increased likelihood of stroke 

compared to non-users. The study emphasizes the release of toxins when cannabis is burned, akin to tobacco smoke, which may contribute to these risks.

These findings underscore the need for caution and further investigation into the cardiovascular implications of marijuana use, particularly in individuals with pre-existing heart conditions. Moreover, the associations between blood pressure and cannabis use appear inconsistent, with some evidence indicating gender-specific effects. The complexity of marijuana’s impact is further complicated by its common use alongside tobacco products, which can confound results. 

Personal Stories: Marijuana Use for High Blood Pressure Management

The relationship between marijuana use and high blood pressure is a topic of growing interest and debate. While clinical studies provide critical insights, personal experiences offer unique perspectives on its impact on cardiovascular health.

Perceived Benefits

Some individuals report using marijuana to manage stress and anxiety, which they believe helps lower their blood pressure.

Adverse Reactions

Conversely, several users have experienced negative physical health reactions, including heart or blood pressure problems. These accounts align with recent studies indicating an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease linked to marijuana use. The American Heart Association highlights the potential dangers of cannabis to heart health.


  • Personal stories are subjective and may not represent the broader population.
  • The co-use of tobacco products and other factors can complicate the direct attribution of cardiovascular risks to marijuana alone.

While personal accounts provide valuable context, they should be considered alongside empirical evidence when evaluating the risks and benefits of marijuana use for high blood pressure management.

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